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Only Love Brings Comfort

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Subtitle: The fortifying power of true comfort
Scripture: Isa. 35:2 (starting with, “They shall see”) - 6 (stop with “the dumb sing”), 8-10
This month’s Spiritual Discipline is Evangelism. You might ask, “what does love and comfort from the title and 2 Cor. 1 have to do with evangelism?”
If you would allow, I’d like to take the opportunity to explore this passage in the wake of that question and see if it might shed light on the answer to that question.
First, it is important to explore our culture’s context in which we seek to share God’s message (to evangelize).
Barna’s 2019 report on American Evangelism just prior to the pandemic called, “Reviving Evangelism” reports:
Nearly half of Millennial practicing Christians say it is wrong to evangelize (47%)
At the same time, two out of three Millennials believe being a witness about Jesus is part of their faith (65%)
More than half report having 2 or fewer conversations about faith with a non-Christian during the past year (56%)
Those who had at least one conversation about faith came away more confident and eager to talk with others.
This is the state of the current, young adult Christian generation as it relates to evangelism. However, the society in which they evangelize is transitioning as well.
With non-Christians it is reported:
7 in 10 say they are not “on a quest for spiritual truth” (71%)
38% report they “don’t have any questions about faith”
62% are looking for less judgment, 50% don’t want others to force them to make a conclusion about Christianity, 44% want more evidence, and 34% say it would be easier to pay attention to it if faith had a better reputation.
Gen Z self-identifies as atheist at twice the rate of US adults overall (13% vs. 7%)
Since 1996 a sharp rise in those identifying as atheist, agnostic or “none”/no faith is clearly seen, alongside a nearly matching decline in “born again” Christians
“[Additionally], the overall number of practicing Christians is falling, against a cultural backdrop that is increasingly tribal and difficult to define.”
“That which is, …actively tearing at the social fabric [is] the breakdown of institutions such as the traditional family; the rapidly diversifying racial and ethnic makeup of America; the revelation of sexual aggression and abuse in once-hallowed religious, artistic, academic and political spheres; and highly public violence such as terrorist attacks and mass murders in community spaces.” Barna asks the question in light of all of this is, “What or who can be trusted anymore?”
To make things worse, consider the state of the Christian community.
Lapsed Christians are the largest group of self-identified Christians in the US, more than 2/3rd’s of all those who identify as Christian who don’t prioritize faith either internally or externally in their everyday, or even weekly life.
Cultural perceptions and Christianity’s poor reputation are actively de-converting people raised in church and hardening non-Christians against evangelistic efforts.
"Most elders were raised in a world where it was assumed one attended a house of worship, where one found a network of believers who offered social support, friendship and many other benefits. As church involvement has dropped off, however, few alternatives have arisen to take its place. Only about on-quarter of US adults who are not practicing Christians report belonging to a spiritual community (23%). The communal aspect of church is simply not being replaced—at least not with relationships that are overtly spiritual.”
When we are finished here today, I would like you to understand that evangelism is not just something you do. “Evangelism can be [trans-]formative, not just proof of [trans-]formation.”
“Evangelism is the fruit and the root of our [trans-]formation. to give the grace we have been given is not only evidence of our transformation; it is itself transforming. Every opportunity to share our faith with others challenges us to live out what we say we believe. And every time we refuse to shrink away from that responsibility, we are strengthened in our faith and as a witness.”
“When we give ourselves to evangelism, we are lifting Him up and presenting Him to a world crying out for a Savior, instead of just secreting Him away as a tool for our own personal sanctification.”
The world is increasingly hungry for meaningful relationship . That has never more been true than since the affects of the past pandemic.
So, what should we do about it?
How must we respond?
How should…must we as individuals and as a church change?
Paul’s introduction is unique here, compared to his other Epistles. He sets the framework for this letter’s apologetic by focusing less on praise for God working through them and more on praise of God himself; he focuses less on their victories and more on their suffering and need. Today, we must focus more on the needs of people around us than we do on our own responsibility to witness. When we see it as a requirement, a responsibility, we make it unemotional and often optional.
Evangelism is not about the guilt trip of whether or not I do what God has told me I should do (although it is that), it is about seeing the person in front of you suffering in loneliness, absent of meaningful relationship, and facing an agonizing eternal destiny. We say we care. The question is, do we care as much for the suffering of those around us as we do for our hope that they might walk through the doors of the church?
Only true love can bring true comfort and love cannot be exercised not realized short of experiencing and sharing God’s grace. Church of Jesus Christ, that is Evangelism.
Note in this short group of verses in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he hammers: Affliction (3 x’s), suffering (3 x’s), death (once) and Comfort (10 x’s vv. 3-7; also almost half of the 59 occurrences in the entire NT are found in 2 Cor.).
He contrasts: Life and Death (vv. 8, 9, 10).
He uniquely connects himself with the Corinthians by writing that what affects him is what affects them. Here he clearly demonstrates a common identity and interdependence he has with them and they with him.
Paul clearly presents deep mutual compassion as that which drives his relationship with those that are around him and the mutual benefit to both spiritually, when that relationship is viewed and exercised in the right fashion.
Big Idea: Through Christ, God comforts us in love so that we will bring that same comfort to others.
(Evangelism and Love [Tony Evans], Evangelism is a direct reflection of my love for God and others and it makes me realize how many other sins might be averted by doing this consistently.)
Main Points:
1. You Can Find True Relationship Only in Relationship that God Offers vv. 3-5
2. God’s comfort always exceeds our suffering vv. 6-7
3. Trust God’s love enough that it gives you and others hope vv. 8-11

1. You Can Find True Comfort Only in Relationship that God Offers vv. 3-5

Father of Mercy (Compassion)
God is the Patriarch, the one who by nature possessed, authored in creation, and empowered through Christ Mercy (compassion).
God now bestows His mercy upon whomever he chooses and according to his prerogative and eternal decree (both, Exod 33:19; Rom 9:15 state this emphatically)
The purpose of God’s mercy is to prompt individuals to repent and return to God
2 Chronicles 30:9 NASB
“For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive, and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”
Because of Jesus Christ, Children of God can go to God expectantly “to receive mercy and find grace” in their times of need
Hebrews 4:16 NASB
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
The NT continually reminds the family of God of their need to practice mercy as a general practice within the family of God. Although “truth” is to be spoken (according to Eph. 4:15), it is to be spoken in love, which is the seat of Mercy. Truth spoken in a manner absent of love is contrary to God’s intent and character, as is not speaking at all.
So, the Father of Mercy demands that his children be children of mercy, especially within the household of faith.
Matthew 5:7 NASB
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Luke 6:36 NASB
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Romans 12:8 NASB
or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Philippians 2:1 NASB
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
Colossians 3:12 NASB
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Jude 22–23 NASB
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
God is the Father of Mercy Who authors mercy in the lives of His children, so in times of wandering and doubt, they may repent and turn to Him where they can find mercy and grace in times of need, so they themselves might show mercy out of the mercy they receive, especially among the children of God. Without God we are without mercy.
Look again at v. 3, God is also the God of all comfort.
Father of Mercy (Compassion)
God of all comfort
“God’s comfort strengthens weak knees and sustains sagging spirits so that one faces the troubles of life with unbending resolve and unending assurance.” [1]
[1]David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 60.
David Garland continued by saying that the modern English word for “comfort” “has gone soft,” but more accurately, “means brave, strong, courageous.” This is not just the appropriate timed “pat on the back” type of comfort, this is that which takes that which is weak (the things of the world; 1 John 2:15-17) and replaces them with the things that are eternal (the things that speak of and lead to eternal life).
1 John 2:20–25 NASB
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
God gives us the fortitude to face adversity when it comes, and come it will. But the level of adversity in the believer’s life can never rise above the fortifying of God’s comfort.
As a child of God you can and will withstand, with God’s fortifying, all adversity that this life might direct towards you. In fact, it seems the very purpose for allowing the adversity to come is to point our attention to God’s fortifying comfort. He does this not only for our sakes alone, but through us - for the sake of others as well.
This kind of comfort is found only in God, who is the God of all comfort.
Father of Mercy (Compassion)
God of all comfort
Comforts us for our sake and others
Note v. 4, “…so that we will...”
Can we be content to expect and experience the constant comfort that God gives us freely without also freely sharing it with others with the same constancy?
Father of Mercy (Compassion)
God of all comfort
Comforts us for our sake and others
As the sufferings of Christ in abundance (because of sin), so God’s comfort for us and through us in abundance.
Abundance -
How abundant is the Godly comfort you give others? Or, is your day more taken up with the “things” of your life alone?
Review of Point 1: “You Can Find True Comfort Only in Relationship that God Offers vv. 3-5”

2. God’s comfort always exceeds our suffering vv. 6-7

2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
God’s comfort has the same power for those that are around you as it has for you.
Could that be the problem?
Do you experience God’s effective and enduring comfort when you are afflicted?
God’s comfort is sufficient to overcome all affliction in you and others
If you want comfort for your affliction, are you willing to share the same with others as this passage suggests you should?
Note v. 6, “…if we are afflicted it is for your comfort and salvation...”
Review of Points 1+2:
You can Find True Comfort Only in Relationship that God Offers
God’s comfort always exceeds our suffering

3. Trust God’s Love Enough that it Gives You and Others Hope vv. 8-11

Your affliction's purpose is to force you to put your trust in God instead of in yourself v. 8-9
++God has, does, and will deliver you v. 10
++We all have part in God’s deliverance v. 11
Main Points:
1. You Can Find True Relationship Only in Relationship that God Offers vv. 3-5
2. God’s comfort always exceeds our suffering vv. 6-7
3. Trust God’s love enough that it gives you and others hope vv. 8-11
Big Idea: Through Christ, God comforts us in love so that we will bring that same comfort to others.
Coming to church services, events, and endeavors is not just for your benefit, you are to make every effort to be a part of things for the sake of others.
God’s comfort for you during times of affliction is not just to deliver you from that affliction, but so God can save others from their affliction through you.
How committed are you to sharing your faith and hope?
How committed are you to those who are at church services, events, and endeavors?
Do you love others nearly as much as you love yourself?
Evangelism and Love [Tony Evans]
“Evangelism is a direct reflection of my love for God and others and it makes me realize how many other sins might be averted by doing this [spiritual discipline] consistently.”
Give urgency and priority to sharing God’s comfort with you to others
Be committed to being a part of things at church for the sake of others more than for your own personal benefit
Grow in loving others as much as you love yourself
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